July 20, 2007

Which Hi-Def device?

Before, High Definition was the future. Then suddenly, it has become the present. Almost every home appliances retail shops have a few HD devices on shelves. So, to stay on the HD train, you have rushed to buy the biggest size product, which you can make your neighbours jealous when they peek at your living room through the window - a big screen HDTV (only if they not yet have one).

Now you have got your HD-ready TV setup nicely on the cabinet. What’s next? For sure not to pair it with some old school analogue media players. So, time to fill it with some Hi-Def contents, from films to gaming. Below are some decent devices which you would like to consider:

XBOX 360 with XBOX HD-DVD (Approx RM2100)
Its well-known online service and still expanding selection of great games simply makes it one of the best consoles. With the optional HD-DVD drive, around USD200 (not sure if it’s available in KK market), you will be able to stuff your HDTV with Hi-Def movies. However, the XBOX 360 only comes with component and VGA outputs, so image signal will be converted to analogue before it goes to your TV but fortunate enough, it still look as sharp as those from Blu-Ray players. Moreover, Microsoft has announced that the unit will support 1080p contents through a software upgrade. You'll be able to enjoy your existing XBOX 360 games and DVD movies in 1080p resolution.

TOSHIBA HD-E1 (Approx RM1800)
This is the first standalone HD-DVD player. Setting it up and running is pretty straight forward, according to some current users. However, the device loading time is pretty slow, takes about a minute to power up and starts playing a HD-DVD disc. Although Images quality is on par with XBOX 360 drive, some may be disappointed to find that its highest image setting through its HDMI port is at only 1080i, not 1080p.

SONY PS3 (Approx RM2100)
Some IT shops in Karamunsing still asking for more than RM2400. It may be a little bit pricey for a game console, but not when it comes with built-in Blu-Ray player. Images edges are sharp and details jump off the screen. Disc loads fast and the device is very quiet. Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio are supported through the HDMI output. However, it is lack of a bundled remote controller. You either buy one or use the wireless controller (now you can "play" movie. DUH!!). However, it includes a 60GB hard drive for video, photos, and music. Some people out there actually bought PS3 just for videos and photos viewing purpose because of its Hi-Def output. Oh yea, it also has a built-in Wi-Fi for easy internet access but of course you are not going to bring it to Coffee-Bean, are you?

PANASONIC DMP-BD10 (Approx RM4600)
The price will definitely hold back even most of the hardcore movie fanatics but Panasonic claims that it comes with picture enhancement technology and it is able to decode lossless audio internally. However, while this is one of the best standalone players around, it just isn’t worth it. Better get a PS3 if you are going for a Blu-Ray player, it can play games, at least.
Some of the device comparison information above are taken from T3 - The Gadget Magazine, July 2007, Issue 38.

May 25, 2007

Hard Disk Running Too Hot?

A Google research study revealed something about the hard disk temperature. While a lot of PC users are trying to keep their hard disk as cool as possible, the study showed exactly the opposite. The rate of hard disk failure increases especially in low temperature, below 30c. Only disks which are older than 3 years behave as expected. However, failure rate only increased when temperature went to about 45c and above. So meaning to say, hard disk cooling systems for home user like us, are basically unnecessary. Research also showed that pleasant temperature should be around 40c.
This is one of the most extensive tests in the IT industry. Google collected and analysed about 100,000 hard disks, included PATA and SATA models capacity range from 80GB to 400GB which majority of home users purchase, from its own data processing centre over the period of nine months.
So now we all know how to take good care of our hard disks.

Asus EN8800GTS 320MB

Just about a couple of weeks ago, I started to play "Rainbow Six: Vegas". With my E4300 running at 2.9GHz paired with further-overclocked 7300GT Sonic, the game play was lagged even though I have put the video setting to low and medium in 1024x768 res. So I started to think of a higher end GPU. After went through some forumers opinions and research, I finally put my order on an Asus EN8800GTS 320MB with my IT supplier. Some might ask why don't top up few hundred bucks and get a GTX. Well, my screen is only 22" and I'm not a full-time/hardcore gamer, nor I've that kind of budget at the moment. So...maybe next time.

Anyway, below are some pictures:

The packaging is nice, and the box is big. With the carrying handle on top of it, you sure can attract some envy eyes when carrying this baby out from the shop.

Inside the box you get a quick installation manual, some driver CDs, 3DMark06, cables, adapter, a nice black CD wallet, and of course - GAMES! WTCC & GHOST RECON:ADVANCED WARFIGHTER.

Not the biggest size GPU on the market but it's quite impressive (NO! That cigarette is not bundled with this toy!). Ghost Recon picture on the heat sink cover but too bad you won't be able to see it after attach to your mobo, unless you are using BTX casing with a top window panel.

Make sure you have nothing attached to the next PCI slot, it takes up two slot spaces. Hot air is push out through the rear vent, unlike some other brands design which just make the hot air circulate inside the PC case.

After installation and everything, I tried it out with 3DMark05 just to see how far it can go. I scored 5587 with my previous setup and this baby hit 13646, and 8370 on 3DMark06! On top of that, it runs a little bit hot. My overclocked 7300GT Sonic ran full load at around 63c and this toy idles at that reading. So make sure your PC case has good air flow system if you are going to have this in your rig.

Now I'm going to Mexico to spank some bad dude ass! Until then...

May 21, 2007

Internet Security Practices

When I was in IT line last time, I actually have quite a number of customers coming in asking for help in "virus-fighting". I even get question like "my P4 quite powerful mah, why still can infected by virus leh?". So the fact is that there are actually people who think that a computer with powerful processor will not get infected by computer virus, and believe me, there are still PC users out there who don't know what is computer virus.

No matter how powerful your PC is, it's extremely vulnerable if you don't practice Internet security, especially when countless of computer virus attacks, malwares, computer hoaxes, and phishing scams are reported almost everyday. So, how do we actually practice Internet security?

Below are some points taken from hardwarezone.com:
  1. Use an Internet security solution that combines antivirus, firewall, intrusion detection, and vulnerability management for maximum protection against malicious code and other threats.
  2. Ensure that security patches are up-to-date and that they are applied to all vulnerable applications in a timely manner.
  3. Ensure that passwords are a mix of letters and numbers. Do not use dictionary words. Change passwords often.
  4. Never view, open, or execute any email attachment unless the attachment is expected and the purpose of the attachment is known.
  5. Keep virus definitions updated regularly. By deploying the latest virus definitions, consumers can protect their computers against the latest viruses known to be spreading “in the wild.”
  6. Check to see if your PC or Macintosh® system is vulnerable to threats by using Symantec Security Check at: http://security.symantec.com/.
  7. All computer users need to know how to recognize computer hoaxes and phishing scams. Hoaxes typically include a bogus email warning to “send this to everyone you know” and/or improper technical jargon that is intended to frighten or mislead users. Phishing scams appear to come from a legitimate organization and entice users to enter credit card or other confidential information into forms on a Web site designed to look like that of the legitimate organization. You should never disclose confidential information without confirming that the request is legitimate.
  8. Both spyware and adware can be automatically installed on a computer along with file-sharing programs, free downloads, and freeware and shareware versions of software, or by clicking on links and/or attachments in email messages, or via instant messaging clients. Therefore, you should be informed and selective about what you install on your computer.
  9. Don’t just click those “Yes, I accept” buttons on end-user licensing agreements (EULAs). Some spyware and adware applications can be installed after you accept the EULA, or as a consequence of that acceptance. Read EULAs carefully to examine what they mean in terms of privacy. The agreement should clearly explain what the product is doing and provide a way to uninstall it.
  10. Beware of programs that flash ads in the user interface. Many spyware programs track how users respond to these ads, and their presence is a red flag. When you see ads in a program’s user interface, you may be looking at a piece of spyware. Don’t click on ads that appear unexpectedly in your browser window. Instead, close the window immediately.

May 8, 2007

AC Freezer Pro 7

Just when I have received my PSU yesterday, a postman honked at my gate this morning. My AC Freezer Pro 7 is finally here after 19 days of delivery, all the way from Performance-PCs.com.

Well protected.

Looks good.

Inside the box...

Compare with stock Intel unit.

Ready for action.

Since there are already a lot of product reviews available in the Internet, I'll not going into product detail. Anyway, I believe my home office is one of the most "computer-unfriendly" environments out there - high ambient temperature all day long. So how well does this unit perform? Let's see...

My rig stays in Coolermaster Centurion 531 case, with 120mm fan for both intake and exhaust. Intake fan speed at around 1260RPM, exhaust spins at around 1740RPM, and CPU fan at 2700RPM. Room temp at around 30c. With closed panel, CPU temperature reads at 47c, System temperature rises from 39c to 41c, PWM1 temp hits 48c from 40c, and PWM3 temp hits 45c from 39c.

I believe it's due the direction which the AC Freezer fan is blowing. Compare with Intel stock unit, Intel's unit is blowing down to the motherboard and thus able to bring down the surrounding temperature more effective, while AC Freezer fan is blowing straight to the exhaust side of the case with only little flow to the motherboard.

So my conclusion, not satisfactory at the moment but since have to wait for the thermal paste to run in, so I expect a slightly lower temp reading by then. Perhaps other people carried out the tests under a more cooler environment, and thus able to have lower temp reading. Maybe I should get an air-conditioning unit for my room.

My SilverStone ST56F PSU

Most people, including myself, neglect the PSU when they upgrade their PC due to almost all new PC cases attached with one. Never before I will consider to spend few hundred bucks in an aftermarket PSU since all my past units have served me well under various operating conditions. However, not until recently when one of my friends told me that his unit, which came together with the PC case, blew up while he was busy spanking his enemies. Now I don't know what does he really mean but certainly, I won't want that to happen to my new rig especially when I have spent few thousand bucks to build it.

So after checking out users suggestions and opinions from a well known local IT forum and read some related articles from the Internet, I put my order for a SilverStone ST56F through modernopc.com (an IT vendor with excellent customer service). Anyway, This unit has received pretty good comments from majority of PC-enthusiasts. Total costs is RM385, including POS LAJU charges.

It's not the best PSU in the world but it sure is the best bang for buck item when talking about 560W Continuous. Go have a round in all the IT shops in Kota Kinabalu, I'm sure you can't find one that comes close to it.

Since there are already lots of detailed reviews on this item, so I'm not going to put up another one here. Anyway, below are some pictures:

Received from POS LAJU.

The box.

Inside the box.

Looks solid and beautiful.

May 6, 2007

Experience with Boulevard IT Superstore

It's grateful to see that IT stores are booming tremendously in one of the local shopping complex - Karamunsing Complex. It's said that the owner wants to turn it into a KK-Lowyat, IT center in other word. One can imagine how tough a business will become when everyone is selling similiar items. However, there are always ways to stay ahead of competitors, and one of them is by providing better customer services possible, and of course, that will depends on the manager's capability in training his sales team.

My story:
Recently I was in the mood to "light up" the interior of my PC case, with some LED fans. so after searching around in Karamunsing, I found out that Boulevard IT Superstore has some units on shelves. No label stating its LED color, so I asked a salesgirl if she can test it out for me. She looked unconfident within a second, and seeked help from her colleague. Sounds good and helpful? Well, unfortunate enough, after the salesman opened up the box and looked at the fan, he told me that it's very hard and troublesome to test the fan because it needs to be connected to the PC power supply unit... Frankly, I was shocked to hear such reason coming out from an IT shop sales person, and this really turns my shopping mood off. Perhaps in his point of view, customer means a person who spends big money...not those who just wanna buy a shitty fan?

My opinion, IT shop manager/owner should only hire people who are keen in IT. Not some low-cost-school-leavers who just want to have fun and wait for payday. Nevertheless, Boulevard IT Superstore does provide a good variety range of products. However, customers better have basic IT knowledge if want to shop there as their sales person aren't very knowledgeable in what they are selling - they can even flipped through External IDE Closure boxes trying to look for information when I enquired if they have high-end PC power supply unit...

May 2, 2007

Internet connection

Read an article in a PC mag regarding Internet connection in other countries, and realize that Malaysia's is still falling far far behind. Looking at our neighbour, Singapore, people are enjoying a higher speed connection since some times ago. Now I'm not sure about the charges, but I guess it will be an affordable one. For Hong Kong, they are running at 10M and for only HKD100+ per month (100HKD is around RM44)! I can only imagine and dream for that to come true in our country...

For ours, we have Jaring and TMNET since the 90's, and now we are only speeding at 512k up to 2mbps. Worst case is that our broadband connection is always down, not "always on" as stated by our ISP. Imagine how frustrated can it be when you are going to perform an urgent online banking transaction and you realize that the connection is down.

TMNET was promoting the RM77 1mbps connection in the recent PC Fair. The salesgirl asked me to sign up. So I asked her what for if my current connection is always down and my 512k can never hits the limit, and she told me that everything will be fine after I upgrade to 1mbps connection. Now that is a VERY RESPONSIBLE salesperson one would like to avoid as they only care about the sales commission, not providing solution! Malaysia TMNET is wasting money on such sales team and no wonder we can't be improved. One of my friends just signed up for the 1mbps package recently and it's down the day after, for whole day long. Malaysia is a boleh-land.

Perhaps our government should upgrade the service under the 9MP. I believe people don't mind to fork out a little bit extra for higher and stable Internet connection speed. If other Asia countries can do it, why can't we?

We don't brag if our results are higher, but we need to revise when we are falling far behind.

April 26, 2007

CoolerMaster Centurion 531

Just when I thought that I'll be happy with my rig running in my white, clean and simple Asus case, I came across a CoolerMaster case this afternoon, the Centurion 531. Being a PC enthusiast, it quickly grabs my attention. After some inspections on the casing, I bought it for RM299, although there are a few very minor scratches on the front panel.

Not bad for that price on a branded stuff. It comes with a well printed installation guide, some fitting bits, and a 120mm CoolerMaster fan attached at the front side, but without a PSU, unfortunately.

Since there are already a lots of reviews on this case, so I'm not going to write another one. Anyway, time for me to do some studying on the casing now.

Until then...

April 23, 2007

C2D Overclocking

Since the day I got my C2D equipped rig setup and running, I've been searching the Internet on how to overclock my toy. Results I found out are either too technical (for me), or too brief. So I just simply tried to push the FSB using Abit uGuru (comes with my motherboard - Abit AW9D), and of course, countless times of system crash and reboot, and the max I achieved was a merely 238 FSB (2.142GHz = 238 x 9), that's only 342MHz further.

Everything comes cleared when I found this C2D Overclocking Guide for Beginners. I'd say this is the most straight to the point guide I've ever seen. So after reading through it, I gave it a try on my system. The result, I achieved 300 FSB, that's 2.7GHz! I know there is nothing to brag on it, but for beginner, I think it's a pretty good result. Although CPU temperature reading still remain the same as stock, I won't go any further until I receive my Artic cooler.

Anyway, thanks again to "Clunk" for that guide.

April 18, 2007

Reactivate Vista, again...

With all the beautiful graphics and features, Vista takes around half of the 1GB system memory everytime after loading. So to make the system runs even smoother, I went out and grabbed another 1GB module to make it 2GB in total. Slotted in the memory module, booted up the PC, and again, I need to activate it...

Perhaps the timeframe is too short since my last activation, I couldn't get it done online this time. So, I called up the support center again, and received lots of questions. Maybe they think that I was installing the OS to other PC...

Anyway, it's done successfully, of course. I asked the guy on the phone under what circumstances do I have to reactivate the OS license again, " After every hardware changes", he replied. "So to save all your trouble calling us up every time, better do all the upgrades at one go". That's his suggestion. ;)

Until then...

April 16, 2007

Primary Hard Drive Replacement

Although this is not a new skill/knowledge, I believe there are people out there who still don't know how to replace their primary hard drive (that's your Drive C) without having to reinstall every single program, and I was one of them... So I would like to share what I learned in here.

I used a 40GB hard drive to start the Vista fun due to tight budget during that time. So, as usual, spaces filled up in no time (around half of it was allocated to Vista...). Just when I was about to go out and grab a new hard drive, I found one 80GB unit lying inside my junk PC in the storeroom...this will solve the problem temporary until I get a brand new SATA drive, with higher data volume, of course.

Anyway, since reinstalling all the programs and redo all the settings are not fun, so I search for program which is able to clone/backup the whole hard drive. Norton Ghost 10 is out of the list since it's not Vista compatible. Although it still can run, I don't feel like to take the risk.

Paragon Drive Backup 8.5 Personal was what I used. It has a 30-day trial and it's Vista compatible. Here is the link - http://www.paragon-software.com/demo.htm. Installing and running the program is pretty straight forward:

  1. Download and install it. Make sure your new hard drive is connected as "Slave" and formatted.

  2. Run the program and a window will pop up asking Buy now or Buy later.

  3. I chose "Buy Later"...

  4. On the main screen, click on Copy the entire hard disk, and a wizard window will pop up.

  5. Follow the on-screen wizard and everything will be done in a short while, although mine took about 36 minutes.

Here is a snapshot of the main screen, with the cloning option circled in red.

I swapped the hard drive and set it to "Master" immediately to test it out. Everything runs well and of course, Vista will need to be reactivated. However, just a few clicks on the mouse while the computer is connected to the Internet and it's done. As simple as 1-2-3.

April 15, 2007

Vista Sidebar...

Been using Vista Home Premium for a couple of months now. Basically, I'm happy with its new interface, security features, and of course, the Sidebar. Previuosly I was using Samsung SyncMaster 753DFX. Yup, it's a few years old 17" CRT. With the Vista Sidebar showing at the screen side , any program window won't be able to show in full if I'm to put it side by side with the Sidebar.

Vista will definately love the additional pixels of a widescreen (perhaps it's created with widescreen in mind), and I'm glad that I just purchased a unit, as mentioned in my previous post, a 22" LCD (BenQ FP222W). One of the reasons that I bought this monitor is because I want to display the Sidebar side by side with most of the programs, if not all, which I run frequently. I do access to my Gadgets a lot when I'm doing my daily job on PC.

I've read quite some posts on the Internet that some people will simply ignore it or even turn of the Sidebar, saying that those Gadgets will take up system memory and slow down system loading speed. However, with my entry-level E4300 C2D paired up with a pair of Kingston 512, my rig has no problem with my 8 Gadgets at all.

I have tested some of the well-known branded PCs which loaded with Vista Home at several local IT stores before. My conclusion, most of them are slow, even it's a C2D system. It's most likely due to too many "unwanted" or "unnecessary" pre-loaded programs running at the background. I was once testing a "h" brand notebook PC, I nearly falling asleep while waiting for it to boot up. It's no wonder why some people complain on Vista's performance. Is it the PC problem, or is it Vista fault? Perhaps they think that branded means first-class. Anyway, Sidebar now display itself perfectly on the right side of my screen...but? Yeah! Can we widen the Sidebar? Or perhaps make it double-column or even triple-column? How about changing those Gadgets size? Unfortunately, no, at least not in the mean time...

April 14, 2007

My BenQ & dual monitor setup

After setting up my new PC, I thought it would be nice if I can have a bigger monitor to accomplish the purpose of C2D - multitasking. A 17" CRT monitor just isn't big enough to fit all those opened program windows. Just couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that monitor price is getting cheaper now, even a 19" LCD cost only 6xx on shelves. Since I'm a heavy PC user, LCD monitor will be my 1st choice, and perhaps a Wide-Screen LCD. After some surveys, I came across the BenQ 22" FP222W in one of the local IT stores, and they priced it net at RM1099. Searched for some reviews on this product on the Internet and commends are very good. Here is one of the reviews - http://reviews.cnet.com/BenQ_FP222W_flat_panel_display_TFT_22/4505-3174_7-32138201.html

Yesterday was the first day of Pikom IT Fair in town. Without much delay, I rushed to check out on monitors deal, and hoping for a better bargain on my wish product - BenQ FP222W (yea yea, I know it's not the best but it's a bang for bucks!). After searching around, saw it at one of the booths display shelves, asking for RM999! The demo unit was attached to an Acer PC. Perhaps a low end PC, the on screen graphic display was a big disappointment. Things looked like being pulled side way to fit the wider screen, a round shape object became an oval...so I asked the salesman if the display can do better than that. "Like that is normal, because it's a wide screen mah, so everything will look wider loh", that's his answer. Hahaha!! I bet he will be fired if his boss hear that. An IT sales person doesn't even know how to do the display setting properly.

Anyway, I'm sure that it's the setting problem. So cashed and carried it home (don't wanna wasting my time on teaching the salesman how to set it up properly), plugged it to my new C2D Vista machine and ran it. Vista then searched for the latest device driver from the Internet and installed it. Then set the Resolution to the highest under Display Settings and VOILA! Everything became crispy sharp!

After one whole night playing with my new LCD monitor, I think it will be even better if I hook up my previous 17" CRT monitor to make it a dual-display. So it was done this morning. Now I have a 17" CRT to display chat program, System Status, and dictionary, while I surf the Internet and using MS-Office program in my 22" LCD...

Luckily I have a 6ft wide office table...hahaa!

My 1st C2D PC

I bought my P4 unit few years ago, and at that time, the sales person told me that it won’t be long before my unit obsolete, better I get a LGA775 otherwise I will be regretted. Well, just a LGA775 motherboard together with a Pentium-D CPU cost nearly RM2000 at that time. Luckily I was on a very tight budget…otherwise I will be regretted for burning a hole in my pocket. So I carried home my P4.

After few years of “abuse” and when PC games nowadays require a higher end system, that’s when I started to dream for a new PC again…until last year when I read about the new Intel Core 2 Duo thing in some PC magazines. I’m gonna get one of these things, I told myself.

So after few months of researches and window shopping in various IT stores, I finally picked up my new rig set: Abit AW9D motherboard; C2D E4300 CPU; a pair of Kingston 512MB RAM; a GeFORCE 7300GT graphic display card; ASUS PC case; and a 430W power supply unit, all for sub RM2000. Hooked up everything, power it up and my new rig hits a Windows Experience Index base score of 4.5. I know it's nothing compare to other's, but still, I’m happy with it.

Since my new system is up and running, I launched my favorite - C&C3 in a big hurry. This game has been chocking my previous PC, even with mostly Low setting. So this time I set to Medium due to my graphic card is still considered as an entry-level unit. Game is running smooth. Now, I can see why hardcore gamers are willing to spend big money in PC…hahaa! The gaming experience is totally different now. Wonder how it will look like if everything is set to High or Ultra-High…

My 1st time in Blogger.com

After been using MSN Space for a few months, it's still unable to attach pictures to blog, which, it's a big turn off although it's still my favorite. Hopefully everything can be sorted out soon, but at the mean time, I will transfer parts of what I have from MSN My Space to here...